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Old 01-15-2005, 04:57 PM   #12
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: "I am the Universe."

Hello David,

It is now nearly 8 am, Sunday, in Japan and I have just turned on my computer. Because of the time difference, it is always interesting to see what new posts have arrived each morning.

I suggested "waga" (1) partly because the Japanese use the phrase e.g., in "waga kuni" and (2) it appears as a reading of the other kanji O Sensei occasionally uses, namely, Nelson 733, Radical 30. But I should have remembered the possessive element.

I am certain that your last post, in reply to John Boswell, hit a few nails on the head and my own thinking has been proceeding on the same lines for for past decade or so, especially since I have been living in Japan. Perhaps I have come to the question by a different route.

But first, to answer John Boswell, these days no one here says, "Ware sunawachi..." to mean, "I am..." However, there is one place I found where there is a very direct phrase. Masahisa Goi in his introduction to "Takemusu Aiki" uses the phrase, "Utchuu sonomono de aru watashi", which means, "I am the universe itself". The phrase appears in a section about transmitting the Founder's words about being one with the universe. Now "utchuu" is a common Japanese name with much the same breadth of meaning and connotation as the English equivalent. The interesting point about Masahisa Goi, however, is that his Byakko Shinko kai is an offshoot of Omoto-kyo and I suspect\I am certain\that he uses similar conceptual categories in talking about his spiritual experiences.

Over the years I have been increasingly struck by the differences between aikido, as the Founder appears to have understood it, and aikido as Kisshomaru Ueshiba appears to have understood it, and this actually was the spur to writing the articles which have appeared in Aikido Journal under the title "Touching the Absolute". These articles were preliminary explorations of a vast and controversial territory and much more needs to be said.

Another way of putting this is to contrast 'prewar' and 'postwar' aikido and tie the question to changes in Japanese ethical andd spiritual values as a whole. I use "prewar" in a rather wide sense, namely from around the Genroku era until WW2. I do this because the explosion of popular culture in Japan, the development of the 'new religions' and the input of western ideas\with the problem of translating these ideas into Japanese\are crucial here.

Another spur was looking at the book "Aikido", published by Kisshomaru Ueshiba in 1975. At the end of the bok there is a collection of "sayings" of the Founder. Like any ancient sage, O Sensei made all kinds of aphorisms and Kisshomaru's book has given rise to a whole industry of publishing "saying" of the Founder, usually under some attractive postwar title like "Abundant Peace", which is doubly appropriate because it is a reading of Morihei etc etc. I think there is something seriously wrong about this enterprise IF such aphorisms are taken out of context and presented as the sum total of what O Sensei "meant" about aikido and life in general.

Thus a phrase like "I am the Universe" desperately needs a context if it is to have any meaning. Of course, if one is a post-structuralist/post-modernist, one can give whatever meaning one likes. However, even here I would be happier if such meanings were grounded in a knowledge of the linguistic and cultural background. In this context I find the boks of Bernard Faure on Chan/Zen of some interest. He does not seem to have an equivalent in the field of Japanese spirituality.

Best regards,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 01-15-2005 at 05:01 PM.

P A Goldsbury
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